What Did You Do in the War, Grandpa?
Which war, Grandchildren?
I was a 19-year old kid from Oklahoma when I joined the Army at the tail-end of the Vietnam War. I was serving as a photographer in West Germany (check your history book) when the war ended. I was much older, serving in the Army Reserve when the Persian Gulf War began. After I wrote then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney to volunteer, I ended up at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, photographing and writing newspaper articles for the garrison newspaper. I left the Army Reserve in 1995.
I was living in Las Vegas when I enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in 2004, three years after the Global War On Terrorism began.
At Fort Irwin, California, where I was sent to join the mobilized Cavalry Squadron from Nevada, I was a Human Resources NCO. I pushed paperwork. As that mission wound down I volunteered for Iraq. Two months at Camp Shelby, Mississippi followed where I pushed paperwork during pre-deployment training. And then, there was Convoy Support Center Navistar in northern Kuwait, a mile south of the Iraqi border. Our mission was convoy security, and Soldiers spent so much time in Iraq we always said we “deployed to Iraq.”
I pushed paperwork there too. I did not have to, but I volunteered to go on three missions into Iraq. So many of my friends faced danger going north, how could I look at myself in the mirror if I did not share in the danger that my friends faced?
Tell you what Grandchildren, a year is a long time to feel a little homesick, to miss my kids and grandkids, and my mom and step-dad. Letters and cards and an occasional care box from family and even strangers, helped. Visiting with friends and eating meals with friends helped (the mess hall where we ate was always over-decorated for the holidays).
But sometimes there were hard times. A Soldier from the battalion we were replacing was killed on his last mission before going home, then a Soldier from a different company in our battalion was killed shortly after we arrived. And in my company, with a little over 30 days to go before we returned home, a Soldier was killed.
Grandchildren, we can talk more about what those hard times felt like when you are older. But not now.
You know Grandchildren, I remember a care box showing up from a school, and young Soldiers gathered around it. These kids were veterans of gunfights, of going toe-to-toe with the insurgents, and here they were, laughing, smiling, and choosing little stuffed animals to take back to their tents. I chose stuffed animals too. And when I returned home and was unpacking my stuff, I remember your eyes lighting up when you saw the little animals and how you excitedly claimed the animals for your own.
Love you, Grandkids!
Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.
He has had two solo photographic exhibitions and curated a third. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.
As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran.
In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint). He is currently studying in a double major in Art and English at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
After over 14 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.
Hampton can be found at:
Barnes and Noble
Dark Opus Press
Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing
Amazon.com Author Page
Amazon.com. UK Author Page
Goodreads Author Page
BLURB: Sergeant Jerry Stanton is a young soldier serving in the War in Iraq. He is a gunner on a gun truck nicknamed “Lucky Bear,” one of those tireless workhorses that escort supply convoys from camps in Kuwait to destinations scattered throughout the war-torn country. In the early morning hours before a scheduled mission, a dust storm howls across his camp and threatens to bring convoy operations to a halt. Worse, the camp receives word that a gunner from his company was killed by an IED while on a convoy mission. Unlike most soldiers, Jerry doesn’t carry a lucky charm, but upon receiving news of the death of the gunner, he begins to mull over/ponder the merit/virtue of a good luck charm—only, what would work for him? Perhaps mail call will provide the answer.
EXCERPT: “People like a happy ending.”
Sergeant Jerry Stanton, an M4 Carbine slung across his chest, glanced at the dark form that trudged alongside him in the hot, early morning darkness. It was all the darker for the dust storm howling across the small camp, a dusty and sandy convoy support center, CSC, a mile south of the Iraqi border. He placed his hand over the tall styrofoam coffee cup from the messhall that was open at all hours to serve those about to head out on a mission. He felt the itchy dust filtering down his back, along his arms, and coating his fingers.
In spite of his short time deployed to Kuwait, he had learned that dust storms were worse than sand storms; they were hot and itchy while the sand storms stung exposed skin and chilled the air. Breakfast was good but tasted flat, more due to the question of whether their mission would be a go or no-go because of the storm that roared out of the midnight darkness hours before.
“People like a happy ending,” the soldier repeated. He was a gunner from another gun truck as the squat, venerable M1114 HMMWVs, which were never meant to be combat vehicles, were called. He held up a rabbit foot that spun frantically in the wind and added, “I like a happy ending. Especially now.” They rounded the corner of a small building, actually a renovated mobile home trailer with a covered wooden porch lit by a bare electric bulb. The gunner pointed to a small black flag, suspended from a log overhang, flapping furiously in the wind.
“Oh shit.” Jerry sighed as a cold chill raced through him.
“It’s been there for an hour or so,” the soldier said as he enclosed the rabbit’s foot within both hands and brought it up to his lips as if to kiss it. He glanced at Jerry. “I’m not superstitious, but still, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with having a lucky charm. You know?”
“Yeah.” Jerry nodded as he watched the twisting flag. “I know.”
The soldier looked once more at the black flag and then walked toward the shower and restroom trailers beyond which were the air-conditioned sleeping tents they called home…